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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Honda Odyssey Vs. Nissan Quest: Compare Cars

Minivans are loved by some parents as much as they're disliked by others; but in any case they're the gold standard for family utility and all-around usefulness. The Nissan Quest and Honda Odyssey are two well-regarded vans; both were new for the 2011 model year, although with this last round of redesigns the Odyssey continued its long hot streak of minivan goodness, with better gas mileage and more features, while the Quest took several steps back in size, flexibility, and functionality.

Deciding factors at the showroom, for minivans, usually comes down to just a handful of factors: safety, flexibility, and features. So before you read down to the handy table below, we'll spill the beans: the Odyssey handily wins our head-to-head minivan face-off with the Quest. The Quest does have some virtues that can't be matched by the big Honda van: it's smaller and thus more friendly in an urban environment, and steers as well or better than the Odyssey. The Quest is to most eyes the best-looking of today's minivans, too, with its bulldog nose and its Flex-like greenhouse.

Beyond those attributes, though, the Odyssey just clobbers the Quest. In safety scores and features, it circles the bases around the Nissan: the Honda's a Top Safety Pick and earns five stars from the NHTSA, while the Quest lags in roof-strength tests and in high-tech safety features like blind-spot monitors. Honda made a backup monitor standard on the entire Odyssey lineup for 2013; fFurthermore, Honda is upgrading the structure somewhat for 2014 and hopes to get top scores in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test.

Flexibility is king in the minivan realm, and the Odyssey's three-row seating is much more spacious and useful than the seven-passenger configuration in the Quest. The eight-passenger, three-row Odyssey has a third-row seat that folds flat into the floor to create a longer load space; the Quest's third row folds down but not into the floor, leaving tiered cargo spaces that can be convenient or a nuisance, depending on your needs. Neither the Odyssey or the Quest have fold-away second-row seats, but the Honda's second-row seats tilt and slide outward for more room. The Quest used to have a cabin with two rows of disappearing seats like Chrysler's minivans, which makes the new one such a letdown.

For entertaining the troops, you'll have to buy more expensive minivans, regardless of brand. Both Honda and Nissan offer goodies like a DVD entertainment system and power sliding doors and tailgates, and neither has the trick features like Chrysler's in-car wireless internet or Toyota's massive 16.4-inch split-screen entertainment system.

Finally, for performance, both the Quest and Odyssey depend on V-6 engines for performance, the Honda sporting either a five- or six-speed automatic and the Quest using a continuously variable transmission to eke out better acceleration and gas mileage. The Quest handles pretty well, nearly as well as the benchmark Honda, but its drivetrain emits a little more noise and does a little worse on city fuel economy than the Honda--though the Odyssey's best highway gas mileage comes only on the priciest models with the six-speed automatic. Neither model offers all-wheel drive, either: Toyota's Sienna is the only minivan left in that market segment.

Fully trimmed, both the Quest and Odyssey easily top $40,000, a number that would make us nervous in the face of unfunded college obligations. Moderately equipped, the Odyssey still strikes us as the better buy thanks to superior safety scores and its better interior room--though if you truly want a frugal, flexible minivan with a rock-bottom price, we'd also seek out the very respectable four-cylinder Toyota Sienna or better yet, the value-packed versions of the Dodge Grand Caravan, the functionality and feature leader of all minivans, period.

In addition, Honda is introducing some significant improvements and updates to a 2014 Odyssey that will be arriving at dealerships soon. The refreshed model includes blacked-out grille trim, new LED lamps, dark headlamp surrounds, and a new bright cross-bar grille. Lane-departure warning and forward collision warning systems are also newly offered. The top-of-the-line Touring Elite model adds a new HondaVAC system—that's a powerful integrated vacuum cleaner, with nozzle accessories and a dedicated space on the driver's side of the rear cargo area.

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